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We sat down with Bikes Team intern Wendell Wu ‘23 to chat about his path to sustainability and just what it takes to get this campus rolling on two wheels.

Sustainable Dartmouth: What got you interested in working with bikes in the first place?

Wendell Wu: I took a very–ahem, nontraditional path to working in Dartmouth Bikes. I noticed this problem–the whole reason Dartmouth Bikes exists–all the abandoned bikes on campus. Five or six bikes were sitting in front of my dorm abandoned, some not even locked. I left a sticky note on one of the bikes. As I walked more and more around campus, I started to increasingly notice the problem. I basically started doing some bikes vigilantism. Some weren’t registered [with the College], some were, and for those registered I kept a close eye on them. It didn’t cross my mind that Dartmouth Bikes would deal with this kind of thing. A friend told me to bring it to Safety and Security, SNS was like hey you’re not supposed to do that, and then, after chiding me, they connected me with Marcus Welker and Dartmouth Bikes.

SD: And the rest was history! In no small part due to your leadership and dedication, the Bikes Team has really flourished this past year. Can you share more about what exactly it is that the team does?

WW: We were founded in 2011 to combat the problem of campus bike waste. The root problem is that Dartmouth students buy cheap bikes, from Walmart or Amazon, and then don’t feel obligated to take care of them. One simple thing breaks on their bike and they don’t even try to fix it. We are extremely sustainable by saving this huge manufacturing cost–at the scale of a campus community, bike waste can get quite overwhelming at times.

SD: So what do you do to combat that massive amount of waste?

WW: The team focuses on 3-4 main services. The first is repair appointments–if we can keep a bike rolling without it becoming abandoned, that’s better for everyone. Then, pop-up bike shops, which is really just an extension of those repair appointments. Rental fleet, where we rent bikes out very cheaply to better serve lower socioeconomic students at Dartmouth. Registration, working with SNS to make sure bikes aren’t getting stolen. Sale of refurbished bikes. Then, there’s the more behind-the-scenes aspects of what we do like abandoned bike tagging and collections, indoor storage…(laughs) we do a lot of stuff. Now that we have more people on the team, we have capacity to do outreach and advocacy–I sit on the Hanover bike Walk Committee and have the bandwidth to turn towards longer term goals.

SD: What are those longer term goals you’re working toward?

WW: Longer term, it’s advocacy and outreach around these issues that we need to work on. Despite all that we’ve done, even in this year alone when we’ve been able to get the word out there about how we’re running smoothly. Getting the word out to Dartmouth undergrads is so important. I tape messages to peoples’ bikes who need work. Making campus aware we exist can have a huge impact on bike waste eventually. The more we can teach campus to take care of their own bikes, the easier it is on us all as a collective.

In terms of town planning, and new urbanist ideals, this entails working with Dartmouth Professor Jennie Chamberlain and the Hanover Bike and Walk Committee. Ideally different modes of transportation, like biking and pedestrians, wouldn’t be mixed at all. There’s really not a need for roads in the middle of campus–bikes being forced on roads when they don’t feel safe is much more dangerous than bikes going slower on sidewalks. Ideally we would either have protected bike lanes or just do away with roads

SD: How are you and the Bikes Team incorporating equity, access, and/or inclusivity into your work?

WW: That’s always at the forefront. One example is that we run a nonprofit–actually most of the time we run at a loss. We’re not a profit seeking, get-those-margins kind of organization, we’re just here to do what we do and keep bikes rolling. We charge less than any other place you could ever find. Our rate is $20 for a half hour appointment, which is at least half of what you’d pay elsewhere, and our rentals are $50 a term. We also allow those on financial aid to get a discount on rentals. When we do sales, we contact first gen networks first. Financial accessibility of rentals is core to our work.

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